In the battle over use of a town-owned SUV in Hamburg, the advantage goes to the highway superintendent.
State Supreme Court Justice Frank A. Sedita III ruled in favor of Hamburg Highway Superintendent Ted Casey, declaring that the Town Board did not have the authority to take away his town-owned SUV for 60 days.
The board had ordered Casey to surrender the black Ford Expedition last month, after he took the vehicle to an Orchard Park movie theater in violation of town policy. Casey turned in the vehicle, but quickly won a temporary restraining order, returning the SUV to him. Casey argued that state Highway Law gives him the authority to control all equipment and vehicles in the Highway Department.
"If Ted wants to drive around in the town-owned car for personal pursuits, then he’s got to deal with the taxpayers who are going to be forced to pick up the tab," Supervisor James M. Shaw said.
The town maintained the Highway Law does not allow the use of a town vehicle for private use because that would be in violation of the state Constitution.
"The Town Board will respect whatever the judge says," Shaw said. "And Mr. Casey will be answering to the public."
Casey did not return requests for a telephone conversation, but in a written statement, he said he "looks forward to moving on from the petty politics of the old board, and to begin working with the new board to resolve the very real issues the town residents and the Highway Department face in fixing our neglected roads."
Sedita still has two issues to sort out: the use of a town seal and GPS on the vehicle.
The town wants a permanent seal on the SUV. Casey said it is permanent, and the town said it is removable.
The town also has suggested placing a GPS unit on the vehicle to track its movements.
In an affidavit filed early in January, Casey's attorney said the town has no authority to place a GPS unit on the vehicle without Casey's consent. But in an email later in the month, Casey said he was in favor of the town using GPS on all town vehicles to "discourage improper personal use of any Town vehicle, including mine." He offered to help make revisions in the vehicle use policy "to ensure it is fair and balanced so that we can all move on from this."
"We got a lot of stuff to deal with here," Shaw said. "Chasing this guy around trying to figure out if he’s telling the truth, where he’s going, is just one colossal distraction."